How do I collaborate with my bossy coworker and her nervous supervisee?
June 14, 2012 9:46 AM Subscribe
How do I cope with a coworker bossing me when she's not my boss? Today my coworker straight up told me that she was delegating a specific project to me and her supervisee "to free up [her] time for other things." Although I want to work on the project, I don't want her thinking she can just delegate work to me whenever she gets too busy. Bonus: I’m finding it difficult to work with her supervisee.
The bossy coworker, let's call her "Jael," and I are professionals at the same level in our small, flat organization. Both Jael and I work immediately under the Director; Jael has one other person in her department, her supervisee "Ham," while I am a one-person department. Due to weirdnesses of seniority and office size, Ham and I share an office, while Jael has her own office.
My work and Jael/Ham's work overlap, so it's natural for us to collaborate on some projects. Unfortunately my philosophy about what the end product of these projects should look like often conflicts with Jael/Ham's philosophy (Ham pretty much always agrees with Jael). This both motivates me to work on the projects (because I don't like the finished product when Jael and Ham do all the work) and makes it difficult for us to collaborate.
And then there's Ham. Ham is a very sensitive, nervous guy and when we disagree (or when Jael and I disagree) it seems to upset him. I don't think I'm being particularly aggressive, but when I disagree with his ideas or I'm not happy with the work he's done, I don't lie and say that I think it's great, I point out things that I would change (probably I could do better about picking at least one or two things that I like, and I will try to do that going forward). Plus I don't really trust him to criticize my work, because he is so conflict-averse. He just always says that he thinks my work is great, and if I want to get any actual feedback I have to ask a lot of leading questions about what I think his actual problems with my work might be. It's exhausting.
I don't really want to involve the Director - at my last performance review we talked a little about my work relationship with Jael and the Director basically said that Jael is not my boss and I don't need to do what Jael says, but that Jael would probably continue to try to tell me what to do. The Director didn't really give me any tips on *how* to not do what Jael says without causing trouble.
So: any hints on how to deal with either of these folks? We are all probably going to be working here for the next year or more. I suppose I could just refuse to collaborate with them but I worry that that would just make things even more uncomfortable, and anyway I like to have input into their projects.